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Researcher Receives $3.9 Million Grant to Study Cannabis Terpenes

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Terpenes found in cannabis hold vast potential in the future of medicine, with a growing body of evidence. Ziva Cooper, who serves as research director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, was awarded a $3.9 million grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health to study cannabis terpenes and determine if they have the ability to lower the amount of opioid medication needed.

Cooper is an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. Cooper and her team of investigators will examine two terpenes, myrcene and ß-caryophyllene. The team will determine if they are effective in treating pain on their own, or by enhancing the properties of THC.

“Chronic pain is a significant public health burden and there are few effective treatments that lack the adverse effects that limit use,” said Cooper in a news release. “Specific chemicals in the cannabis plant taken alone or together may be effective options with minimal side effects—placebo-controlled studies to explore this urgent area of research are desperately needed.”

Just months ago, Cooper received a similar grant. In the fall of 2019, Cooper and her team received a $3.5 million grant for a study on how cannabis and cannabinoids affect men and women differently—especially for the treatment of pain. Cooper is recognized as the first research director of the Cannabis Research Initiative, beginning in January of 2019. The initiative was founded in 2017 under the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

There are estimated to be over 200 terpenes found in cannabis, according to a 2011 study, with several displaying the potential for possible medical benefits. Beyond cannabis, myrcene is found in mangoes, hops, bay laurel leaves and thyme. ß-caryophyllene is also found in black pepper, cloves, hops and rosemary.

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Strain of the Week: Midnite

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Whoever first said that “nothing good happens after midnight” clearly was not enjoying life. Maybe it was said to perpetuate safety, specifically toward rambunctious youth who went gallivanting around in the forest at night. Or maybe it was more geared toward superstitious beliefs about witches or paranormal entities who roam around when the sun goes down. Either way, whoever said it definitely hadn’t seen a Gremlins movie, which contrary to the plot which warns against feeding a Gremlin at night, is one of the weirdest and best 1980s movies ever (change our mind). Ultimately though, cannabis after midnight can be a treat, especially when it’s a strain like Midnite.

Midnite is a cross between Bubba Kush and Chem #4. Bubba Kush is well-known for its earthiness, deep pine aroma and ability to induce sleep (not to mention that, as reviewers put it, it’s so widely loved that consuming it is often like “greeting an old friend at the airport”). Chem #4, which is also short for Chemdog/Chemdawg, is a zesty hybrid, complete with scents and flavors of lemon, that delivers full body effects of relaxation and euphoria. Between these two powerhouse strains create a unique strain child that’s full of potential.

Described as light green and denser than a dogwood tree, Midnite strain samples were absolutely covered in frosty trichomes—so much that it almost seemed like it was covered in freshly fallen snow, or even might glow when placed in a dark place. Surprisingly, the bud didn’t have much of a scent until it was ground up, revealing a potent chemmy aroma that made our seasoned reviewers salivate. Upon inhalation, the flower was robust but not harsh, leading to full body relaxation that didn’t feel lethargic. It won’t stop anyone from getting a full night’s sleep when ready to crash, however, and the rest of its qualities were deep and relaxing.

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Virginia to Focus on Legal Cannabis in 2021 Legislative Session

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Some legislators in Virginia are planning on pushing for support to consider recreational cannabis this year.

The 2021 legislative session in Virginia, which began on January 13, will be conducted remotely as the pandemic continues to be a major concern. The state’s House of Delegates will be meeting entirely remotely, and the Vermont Senate will meet at a conference center instead of at the state capitol building.

To start off this year’s legislative session, there are multiple topics on the table for discussion, including COVID-19 relief and the death penalty repeal. But perhaps the most contentious issue of all is the discussion of recreational cannabis legalization.

During this legislative push, Governor Ralph Northam is once again making it known that he would like to see recreational cannabis legalized. If Virginia legislators make a move, they will be the first Southern state to fully legalize cannabis. Currently, the state only allows medical cannabis, which went into effect on July 1, 2020.

Northam, who has been speaking out in favor of recreational legalization since November 2020, would like to see a legal approach that makes sure youth safety is high priority and also prioritizes the struggle of marginalized people disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

The success of this push for legalization will hinge on whether or not there are enough votes in the legislature in favor of legal cannabis for it to pass. However, even Republicans are coming around to cannabis issues in many states, and Virginia has successfully decriminalized cannabis and legalized a medical program.

Despite the fact that the state has already laid the groundwork for full, recreational legalization, it remains to be seen whether Virginia will follow through and successfully legalize cannabis this year.

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WSU Study Finds Cannabis May Diminish Stress Response

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A new study from Washington State University (WSU) has found that cannabis may diminish a user’s physiological response to stress.

Researchers found female rats that self-administered daily puffs of cannabis vapor for a month had lower blood levels of a hormone that causes stress when presented with a stressful situation than they did at the beginning of the experiment and compared to a control group. The rats were trained to trigger an infrared sensor that would activate a puff of cannabis vapor anytime they felt the urge. Previous studies have shown cannabis could have an effect on stress response.

After 30 days, only female rats that had access to the cannabis had a significantly muted response to stress. The rats that were given access to cannabis also tended to respond more for the substance and had higher concentrations in their blood after the experiment. Male rats did not experience the same results, but they also self-administered a lot less.  

“We don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing and there’s reason to argue for either of them at this point—a blunted stress response might actually predispose some people to certain mental health conditions is our concern,” said co-author of the study and WSU assistant professor of psychology, Carrie Cuttler. “So yeah, it sounds great on the surface that maybe they’re less prone to stress…but the stress response is an important system that exists for a reason—any alterations in that or perturbations in that system may or may not be a good thing.”

WSU assistant professor and another co-author of the study, Ryan McClain, mentioned there are ethical and legal concerns with testing stress responses on humans, as well as administering cannabis to some of the human participants, so these kinds of studies are limited to animal models.

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